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Mohammad Khatami

Is he an Andropov or a Gorbachev? Last May's presidential elections in Iran saw the unexpected victory of a liberal cleric, raising the hopes of reformers. But Fred Halliday explains how the country's religious and political constitution may inhibit reformist ambitions

By Fred Halliday   January 1998

On 23rd May 1997 something extraordinary happened in Iran. On that day’s presidential election, Mohammad Khatami, a cleric of liberal reputation, was chosen by 69 per cent of the voters (on a turnout of more than 80 per cent) to be the country’s next president. The event was extraordinary for two reasons: first, because of the broad range of people who voted for Khatami-the younger generation, women, non-Persians (who make up half of Iran’s population); second, because once the four candidates were in the race, a free choice was allowed. It is too early to say what the import of…

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